Solar and lunar eclipses have played an integral role in unlocking some of the biggest mysteries of the universe and are now revered for their celestial beauty; but for our ancestors, eclipses were seen as portending doom.
Nordgren (Physics/Univ. of Redlands; Stars Above, Earth Below: A Guide to Astronomy in the National Parks, 2010, etc.), who has worked at the U.S. Naval Observatory, takes readers on a tour of astronomical history via mankind’s observation of solar and lunar eclipses. The relative rarity and dramatic imagery of eclipses resulted in much mythmaking among ancient civilizations, but later scientists recognized the phenomena as an experimental tool that made it possible to determine the geography of the sun and confirm Einstein’s theory of relativity. In language accessible for readers of all ages, the author delves into the history of mankind’s cultural response to eclipses, from the charts tracking eclipse seasons in the Mayan codex to today’s growing population of “coronaphiles,” who travel around the world chasing total solar eclipses. Nordgren also includes many dazzling images, drawings, and photographs to illustrate scientific concepts or convey the media’s extravagant coverage of scientific events. Aside from being one of the few astronomers writing nontechnical accounts of eclipses, the author’s enthusiastic practicality makes him stand out: he includes a comprehensive list of all upcoming eclipses (through 2029) and where to view them, including the already much-anticipated total solar eclipse due to occur on Aug. 21, 2017, which will be visible from the United States. Yet the book’s appeal is also poetic; to the author, nothing less than “the secrets of the universe have been revealed to us by shadows stretching over the light-years between stars.”
A charming natural history of eclipses and a guide to witnessing the awe-inspiring event yourself.